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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Western Human Nutrition Research Center

Improving the quality of life through nutrition research



Located on the University of California, Davis campus in the agricultural Central Valley, much of the WHNRC's research investigates whether and how foods and food constituents prevent obesity and chronic disease. It focuses on understanding how the quality and quantity of the diet affect human health, using systems biology and "omic" approaches that integrate cutting edge metabolic, behavioral, physiological, biochemical and immunological biomarkers of function and risk of chronic disease. In the next 5 years this approach will be used in a series of studies to evaluate the effects of eating a high quality diet based on recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, compared to the typical American diet.




The WHNRC has discovered new information to guide the prevention of overweight and obesity and its risks for chronic disease. Highlights include identifying new blood markers of pre-diabetes and characterizing the basis for abnormal amino acid metabolism in diabetes; demonstrating that chronic stress and low cortisol response to stress (blunted "acute stress responsivity") are associated with differences in brain function and poorer food choices; finding zinc metabolism in pancreas and muscle significantly impacts insulin release and peripheral tissue insulin sensitivity; and showing that specific acylcarnitine metabolites resulting from inefficient fatty acid oxidation can trigger inflammation and muscle insulin resistance.


WHNRC Scientists have Increased our understanding of how foods and food constituents affect immune function and the chronic inflammation which increases risk of chronic disease. Discoveries include the anti-inflammatory and cardio-metabolic benefits of foods, including strawberries, cherries and grapes, and the demonstration that improvement of nutritional status in response to consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements depends on an individual's genotype.


Unique equipment and facilities


The WHNRC has a human calorimeter for measurement of 24-hour energy expenditure; a Metabolomics Laboratory; a Metabolic Kitchen and Human Feeding Laboratory; and facilities for 12 live-in study participants. WHNRC Scientists have leadership roles and access to unique equipment in the NIH-funded West Coast Metabolomics Center and the Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center at UC Davis.


 Research Units


••      Obesity and Metabolism

••      Immunity and Disease Prevention

••      Metabolic Kitchen and Human Feeding Lab

••      Core Support Labs

••       Metabolomics


 Nutritional Studies & Tools

 News & Events




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Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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